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MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Earth and Space Sciences, Computer Science and Design Thinking

Resource Types

  • Podcast, 10 minutes, 36 seconds
  • Lesson Plan
  • Activity - Classroom
  • Worksheet
  • Article

Regional Focus




Climate Models and Uncertainty

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  • This resource on the uncertainty of climate models includes a lesson plan, a podcast, a game on adaptation and risk, discussion questions, and abridged excerpts from the IPCC's AR5 Summary for Policymakers.
  • Students will learn how scientists quantify and think about uncertainty, especially in the context of climate models. 
Teaching Tips


  • The game allows students to create an adaptation plan for a coastal city and test the plan in several randomized scenarios.
  • The podcast guest, MIT professor Kerry Emanuel, describes the complexity of global systems and climate models using terms and metaphors that are easy to understand.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should be familiar with some of the impacts of rising temperatures including sea level rise, desertification, and disruptions in our global food systems.


  • Students can make this topic relatable by thinking about times in their own life when they've had to assess probability, risks, and uncertainty. 
  • Students can look at climate models and assess the areas of uncertainty using resources like this climate simulation.
  • To learn more about uncertainty and climate risks, students can explore this lesson on risk.
Scientist Notes
This resource includes a podcast in which an MIT expert is interviewed and discusses how science deals with and quantifies uncertainty. The ways in which scientists discuss uncertainty and risk are contrasted with the ways in which policymakers and individuals process information and make decisions. A transcript and educator's guide, along with additional resource links, are provided. This resource is recommended for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • English Language Arts
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • SL.11-12.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, links among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, and tone used.
  • Science
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • HS-ESS2-2. Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • HS-ESS3-5. Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth’s systems.
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • HS-ETS1-3. Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.
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